Caran D’Ache 849 Fountain Pen Review

I have owned some Caran D’Ache ink and was very pleased with it but I have never really seen any of their writing instruments that jumped out at me and had to rest in my shopping cart. Recently my friends at The Pen Company gave me an opportunity to look at the Caran D’ Ache model 849 fountain pen. I’m glad I did.

Founded in 1915, Caran D’Ache is a Swiss manufacturer of office, school and art supplies including some beautiful fountain pen ink colors and writing instruments.

The 849, in ballpoint or fountain pen, is one of their moderately priced models with a hexagon shaped barrel and comes in multiple powder coated colors. The Fluo edition, which I reviewed, comes in striking and bold anodized colors. My fluorescent green will not be mistaken for any other color in any light!

The Pen

Caran D’Ache 849 Fluo

  • Material: Aluminum
  • Nib: Steel available in M, F, XF
  • Length Capped: 5.5”
  • Length Uncapped: 4.85″
  • Length Posted: 7”
  • Weight: 18.5 grams with ink cartridge
  • Street Price: $49

Overall Appearance

The 849 would be considered a hex shape pen though technically it’s almost a 12 sided pen. The 6 large flat spots meet each other by way of 6 smaller flat spots. The finish and the light reflection from all the edges is a unique look I haven’t seen before. In contrast to my Faber Castel Ondoro, another popular hex shaped barrel pen, where the edges are sharper. Caran D’Ache even trademarked their design.

The bright green anodized finish is a real stand out on any desk if you like bright and loud but it doesn’t look plasticy or toyish either.

Section

The section is black plastic with a fairly steep taper for a pen that starts out slender to begin with. The stop collar near the nib is large enough to be a tactical que for your finger to stay uninked by not going any further towards the nib. Uneventful, well executed.

Cap

The cap is the coolest part of this pen to me. It’s the same diameter as the body of the pen and has a smaller chrome collar at the bottom that slips INSIDE the body of the pen to make the capped pen all one diameter. It stays on with a definitive and satisfying snap. The cap established itself as my favorite part of the pen when I learned it posts the same way slipping inside the barrel end. Quite cool. Granted when posted it makes for long pen at 7” but usually one posts a pen for better weight balance or better length to fit their hand. I don’t think the unposted 849 needs either of those, but it’s still fancy.

Clip

Functionally the clip works well and I’m not sure how I would redesign in but it looks like an afterthought to me. It’s a stamped steel variety that clamps around 5 sides of the hex shaped cap. Again, the clip works fine and given the design you could choose to remove the clip altogether without a trace and I think that gives the pen a real streamlined look. The Caran D’Ache branding is visible on the cap right under the clip.

Filling System

The 849 accepts international standard short ink cartridge and comes with a blue black cartridge to get you started. A converter is available for about $8.00

Nib

The nib is unadorned except for a small hexagon shape engraving with a circle in the middle. I’m not sure what that stands for as the official Caran D’Ache logo is just their name in a fancy font. Like the pen itself the nib is long and slender which really works aesthetically. My medium wrote very smooth and a little on the dry side which I don’t think is a bad thing and if you prefer a little more ink a nibmeister could customize it for you in short order.

Writing

This is a slender pen, plenty of length and the hex edges, as described above, are almost not edges at all and thereby comfortable with any grip I tried. The section is long. The nib requires some pressure to get the darkest lines out of it. That may be adjustable with some nib work but I found myself lightening my pressure and not getting as much ink out as I would like, not a deficiency, just a preference. I didn’t experience any hard starts or skips. Overall it was comfortable and I’m sure one could go awhile with this pen. I took it for three pages and just ran out of things to write, the pen was still comfortable.

Conclusion

After my time with the 849 Fluo I will admit I shopped the Caran D’Ache brand a little deeper than I have in the past. The Pen Company has a great selection. The nib was a strong performer out of the box, fit and finish were flawless from my inspection and that cap is just ingenious. If you want a reasonable entry point into a Swiss writing instrument you have many choices in finishes here and I don’t think you will go wrong with an 849.

Thanks again to the Pen Company for sending this one over and broadening my brand horizons.

BTW here my friends over at Scrively reviewed it  and Ana over at Well Appointed Desk reviewed it as well.

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Sailor Pro Gear Fountain Pen Review

I tend to like my nibs like my cheeseburgers, fat and juicy. This has caused me to overlook some of the Japanese brand pens because of their propensity to finer nibs. I realize that leads me to miss out on some great pens.

Recently I teamed up with Massdrop to bring you a look at a widely recommended and praised pen from Sailor, the Pro Gear. Massdrop is a community-driven commerce site where enthusiasts of select groups of product categories come together to connect, inspire and shop. Writing is the community where I have focused but everyday carry, watches and blades also garner some of my attention.

Here is a link to the review I wrote if you’ve wondered about the frequently praised Pro Gear.

Thanks Massdrop

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Scout Books Notebook Review

I have begun to use more and more pocket notebooks. I have taken on a fundamental shift is my use pattern. For several years I held a strict discipline of a single notebook dedicated to my To Do List. Most of these tasks are personal in nature and I rarely have to refer back to them after I cross them off. This strict discipline frequently left me scrambling to look for a piece of paper to leave a note on somebody’s car or at their door even if I had my pocket To Do list notebook with me. The logical sensible thing to do was just tear a page out of that and BAM there was the paper I needed.

I tried carrying two notebooks for a very short while. One for my formal to do list and the other one for everything else. That didn’t work so I’m getting better at using my notebook for what it is. A bunch of blank paper stapled together to write on. If I need a quick list for shopping at the home center, I got it covered, missed mom at home and need to leave her a note, I got it covered. And I don’t carry anymore stuff than I have to. How hard is this right? The only drawback is I go through notebooks faster. I was going through the same amount of paper just not a single notebook as fast. This is a better system by far.

My increased usage had me doing a little shopping recently to see if there was a brand in the marketplace that I was overlooking. Fountain pens get the most use from me and most of those have a fat wet broad nib so wide lines and good paper are a must. Rowan over at Scout Books was kind enough to send me some of their notebooks to try out. A great experience and a great product.

  • Price: $24.95 pack of 10
  • Size: 3 ½” x 5” Is there a standard pocket notebook size anymore?
  • Lots of stock colors available
  • Paper: 32 white pages of 70# recycled paper. Hold on though don’t worry about the sometimes feared R word
  • Available with lined, blank or dot grid paper
  • Line Spacing: ¼” or 6.5 mm
  • Lines: Faint gray dots give a good lined page effect

Construction Fit & Finish – I was very pleased with the Scout Books and how well they are constructed. Folds were straight, printing was consistent and the edges were crisp. They are two staple affairs and all in fine order with the binding. The slip case for 10 books was sturdy enough without be overbuilt and taking away from the money invested in making the notebooks.

Cover – Scout Books offer many different fun styles of covers, the one I spent time with for this review is an all black variant. They carry several cool print patterns and also offer a custom line where you can use your own artwork and have it transferred to the covers using silkscreen, letter press, painting or stamping. Stock offerings come in packages of 10 with a nice slip cover. Custom orders require a larger quanity purchase.

Paper – Scout Books is using 70# paper that I found has very good performance, an added bonus is it’s a recycled paper product. There is some feathering with the wetter nibs but for a utility notebook it’s very acceptable and usually that means extremely fast dry times. Under 8 seconds in my test produced no finger smudges. The line spacing is good for me at ¼”. I like broad nibs and line spacing that is too tight jumbles up my writing too much. Ghosting was minimal and the only bleed through I got was with a Sharpie marker using a heavy slow hand with a lot of ink transferred. Impressive.

Conclusion – Nothing I would add, at $2.50 a notebook the price is competitive for a quality pocket notebook. The recycled paper, if that is important to you, takes just about any ink and wet fountain pens reasonable well. If I had the marketing reach I would love to do a My Pen Needs Ink custom notebook.

Thanks to Rowan and the team over at Scout Books for sending these along and creating a great choice in the pocket notebook sector.

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My Analog Room

Over the years I have fallen deeper into this hobby which has resulted in a common collection of pens, inks, pencils, note cards, letter paper and so on. I haven’t amassed a huge collection so I have been able to contain it to a bookshelf in my home office. Though my recent acquisition of paper products has outpaced my use of said paper products so everything gets rearranged to make it fit after I try it out.

I find myself putting off writing letters and not enjoying my pens because of the time it takes to find what I want and the subsequent put away afterwards. I have longed for a good solution and after some mental stalling and fear of just doing it I think I have made some progress. Recently we freed up a room in our house that was starting to collect more random household goods than we wanted. I decided to transition the room to the Analog Room. Not a man cave, but a place for anyone to experience an occasional refuge from email, screens and technology.

The center piece for me will always be the electro-mechanical pinball machine that is very similar to the one I had as a child. I still love a good game of pin without having to maintain a pocket full of quarters.

The first purchase was a writing desk, just for writing, no stapler, tape dispenser, pictures or doodads, just a blank desktop. I wanted small and preferred a roll top variety not for the nostalgia as much as for dust control. Shopping the online classifieds, prices ranged widely and I think some of the sellers’ believed theirs was used by Thomas Jefferson when he penned the Declaration of Independence. I found a reproduction that fit the budget to a point that if this hair brain idea doesn’t work out I’m not out much coin. A short drive, exchange of cash and a cleanup from some domestic animal that shed blankets full of hair in one of the drawers and we got it inside our new room setup. It has a few age bruises but if I ever have to sell it I will go with words like patina and character.

Writing Desk

Immediate Needs

  • Lighting
  • Chair, do I go vintage or comfort?
  • Ceiling fan with electrical, it gets quite warm in there
  • Cellular signal and wi-fi jamming device (ok kidding)

Coming Soon

  • JCPenney table radio that works great with the old tune dial
  • Old citizens band radio desktop microphone that my dad used
  • Typewriter, though floor space may limit what I can do for a stand
  • Flip card rolodex for addresses, or maybe a Col-r-ring?
  • Hardbound dictionary

Cute Creative Stuff

  • A shelf or basket at the door for any visitors’ devices
  • A sign claiming the room as an analog only zone

Conclusion

I’m enjoying the setup so far though with a delay from our friend Irma the storm. I have written the first letter from the new desk to my lovely wife who has been extremely supportive, yes I mail letters to my wife who lives in the same household. I look forward to some Pinterest cruising for analog ideas and inspiration and I’m hoping I can get a few pictures through the window for social media as I progress because remember devices will not be allowed in the room 🙂 .

So do you have an analog space or have any ideas for mine?

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Central Crafts Bellagio Journal Review

Bellagio JournalI spend a lot of time in the United States, ok all my life, all the time, but I really do appreciate the products from other countries that are passionate about their quality and reputation. Germany has their cars, Switzerland has their watches and I’m sure there are many other examples. From Italy I enjoy what I know as Italian food, Italian cars are some of the most beautiful in the world and Italian wearables have a reputation for fine quality. Recently I got the chance to review a handmade Italian leather journal from Central Crafts called the Bellagio.

Central Crafts is based out of the UK and has been building relationships with small artisan product makers since 1999. The journal I spent time with is from a small family run leather workshop in Florence Italy. The Bellagio is one of many variations on the classic A5 size journal that Central Crafts offers on their website.

  • Material: Italian Calf Leather
  • Price: $33 US – dependent upon exchange rate
  • Size: 6” x 8 ½” x ¾”Length Overall
  • Colors available: Aubergine (Dark Purple), Black, Chocolate, Fuchsia and Red
  • Paper: Blank cream colored acid free paper

140 Character Review – Italian leather cover in rich chocolate brown with a cool paisley pattern and great paper makes for an enjoyable holder of ink and words.

Construction Fit & Finish
A well-made journal with a little bit of cover flex and corners that are tastefully unadorned. The paper binding is tightly sewn so when using about the first 25% of the pages you get a slight spine hump to work around when writing on the back of the pages. I did not experience the annoyance of any pages flopping over on their own, regardless of where I open the journal up to. A good balance.

Bellagio Journal Bellagio Journal Bellagio Journal

Bellagio JournalCover

The cover is a beautiful chocolate brown with an embossed paisley design on the front and back. The calf leather texture is quite grippy which helps me carry the journal safely and a side benefit this surface texture is it doesn’t slide around on the desk at all.

Bellagio Journal Bellagio Journal

Paper

The paper is cream colored, acid free and Italian sourced. I am not sure of the actual GSM weight but it feels heavy enough, maybe 90 gsm if I had to guess. My broad wet nib fountain pens performed very well with no feathering or bleed. There is some slight ghosting but I’m not a both sides of the paper person so I was ok with it. My gel, rollerballs, ballpoints and pencils worked fine with similar ghosting.

My experience says when a maker thickens the paper up much more to help remove all ghosting then they usually reduce the page count quite a bit for weight and thickness targets. Which speaking of page count I don’t know exactly how many pages there are and I tried to count a couple of times but my fat fingers kept slipping up so I’m going with ALOT of pages. The Bellagio comes in at just over ¾” thick.

Bellagio Journal Bellagio Journal

Bellagio Journal

What I would like to see in the Bellagio

  • More paper options across Central Crafts’ entire journal lineup. The Bellagio only comes with blank paper. A choice of blank, ruled or dot grid would be nice.
  • A ribbon page marker, some use them some don’t, I’m a user and I miss it. A sticky note is just out of character for this journal.
  • A maker’s mark or some other ornamentation on the front or the back so I can quickly orientate the journal when I take it from my briefcase to take down a few lines or notes
  • A few more technical specifications on the website for the various models. Paper weight and page count come to mind.

Conclusion

None of above nit-picks take away from the quality of the paper or this journal overall. At $33 US you get genuine Italian leather, wonderful paper and a very high quality build that is a pleasure to write in.

Thanks to Alma over at Central Crafts for sending me over a Bellagio to try out.

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Franklin-Christoph Notebook Cover Review

For a guy who can barely match his socks, much less his belt and shoes, Franklin-Christoph has really elevated my style the last couple of months with a pair of matching notebook covers.

They carry a great product line catering to our hobby. Pens, pen cases, paper, notebooks and notebook covers. I have several of their exceptional quality pen cases and one of their pens. At my last pen show I had nearly filled my daily journal and was set on buying a new A5 journal. I don’t like to get too many extra journals in stock and it gives me a chance to always try something new. I wiggled my way up to the FC table and picked up one of their journals that I didn’t realize was wrapped in one of their own journal covers. I was impressed with the journal and the cover so I picked up one of each. I got back to the room that afternoon and after looking over my purchases I really liked the cover so I went back downstairs and got the matching pocket notebook cover. They call it their Linen Brown Fabric Notebook Covers.

The material is a thin fabric with good weave texture for grip and just enough stiffness. The notebook stays open and doesn’t require an extra hand like some of the thick leather covers I have used. Thin and protective without being bulky.

Pocket Notebook Cover

The pocket notebook version has a 1” x 1” Franklin-Christoph patch on the front cover and a smaller version of the same patch at the bottom of the back cover. The front patch is a good reference point for my eyes, picking up the notebook I will always know what the front is. Sounds simple but it helps me when I’m trying to jot down a quick note. The cover has notched corners and stitching in contrasting beige. A really great looking cover to me. They run $20.

Inside pockets are notched and with a slight over sizing of the pocket. A standard 5 ½” notebook change is quick and easy. It’s the little things that make this cover a joy.

A5 Size

Similar in look and construction with a little different pocket design on the inside. I think the material is a little bit thicker on the A5 size but nothing that makes it bulky. FC logo patch is a black vinyl or leather variation at the bottom of the back cover. My perfect cover would do the same as on the pocket version with some type of logo patch on the front as an easy visual but that’s a real nit-pick, I’m spoiled by the pocket version. At $34.50 a quality product at a good price.

Conclusion

After several months both covers have held up well and I normally change my covers up just for a spice in my everyday routine the Franklin-Christophs have worked so well they have become a staple. Thin, light and durable showing no signs of wear or dirt. Love them!

Additionally the A5 journal that Franklin-Christoph calls the Firma Flex Journal has been a wonderful insert and by itself has a beautiful cover that I was tempted not to cover up. That may be a later review.

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Herbin Amethyste de l’Oural Ink Review

I have never really thought about how long ink has been around. I figured a long time but 340+ years was a bit of a shock when I read the promotional literature on a brand new collection from Herbin. With the introduction of this new ink comes a few changes for the company. Formally known as J. Herbin they are going back to their roots as just the Herbin company. In 1670 founder, Jacques Herbin, was a sailor traveling through India supplying sellers in Paris the ingredients for the manufacture of waxes and inks. The company continued to prosper and in 1798 they embraced the introduction of the steel nib dip pens that was replacing quill pens for writing.

To commemorate this pivotal year for us pen nuts Herbin has introduced their first ink in the Herbin 1798 Collection. Exaclair, the exclusive distributor for Herbin in the US, gave me an opportunity for a first look at it. A beautiful purple with silver sheen called Amethyste de l’Oural or Amethyst of the Ural Mountains. The 1798 Collection is an additional collection for the company and the 1670 Collection will still be available.

  • $26 / 50 ml or $.52 / ml
  • Color Family: Purple
  • Bottle opening Diameter: 13/16” plenty large enough for any nib
  • Pen I Used: Wet writing medium nib in a Pelikan M1000

Bottle
It’s beautiful, it’s from Paris, and it has its own wax seal. Definitely one from the looker department. With a wide square stance this one is a safe fill even for shaky hands. I like that. I like the cap too, it has somewhat of a grippy texture to it.

Sheen & Shading
The silver sheen is prominent, it takes a little more light angling than some of the gold sheening inks but when it comes out its striking. I think the silver is a better fit for a purple base than a gold would be, but that’s a personal preference only. The shading is faint with my wet writer. Lighter shade at the top of my stroke to just a little bit darker at the bottom. Maybe it would be more pronounced with a drier nib. Sheen is the strength here and the silver specks is what gives this ink the character. Here is an ink spider that shows the character.

Conclusion

I enjoyed the ink and if you’re a Herbin fan or purple ink enthusiast this is a good add to your collection. Thanks to Karen and Sunny over at Exaclair for sending it over. Look for Amethyste De l’orul at your favorite retailer soon.

Writing Samples

HP Premium Choice Laser 32 lb 98 Brightness

Nock Co Dot Dash Card

Big Box Store Copy Paper

Crown Mill Pure Cotton 100 gsm

Tomoe River

Clairfontaine

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Diamine Shimmering Purple Pazzazz Ink Review

I have fallen hopelessly in love with shimmer inks. To heck with pen maintenance and clogged feeds with hail size pieces of gold, this stuff makes my writing come off the page. Ok not a single non-pen person has said anything about it when looking at the output but I’ve enjoyed the surprises when it dries on some paper as the gold flake can really pop out.

My favorite has been the Diamine Shimmer Cocoa so I decided my next bottle would be from the same family in the Purple Pazzazz variant. I was not disappointed with the behavior and output of the ink.

Diamine Shimmering Purple Pazzazz

  • Price: $20 for 50 ml or $.40 per ml
  • Color Family: Purple
  • Bottle opening Diameter: 5/8” which is more than sufficient for dipping any nib that I tried
  • Pen I Used: Carolina Pen Company Charleston with a steel broad nib

Bottle
Glass, round and plain with a deep profile for making it easy to get the most ink out of the bottle. Nothing really to save here or display worthy. All the money went into the ink which is fine with me. Fine with me.

Sheen & Shading
The signature of shimmer inks is the sheen and Purple Pazzazz does not disappoint. Best seen on the Col-R-Ring sample here.

I was using a wet broad nib so maybe not a characteristic of the ink but it goes on really wet so you won’t see the true character of what you’ve written until it dries. I kind of liked the surprise factor.

Conclusion
I love the ink and though I can’t consistently replicate the extreme gold sheen at will I smile when it happens. I have gone through 3 refills already. Oh and ink spiders are fun as well:

Writing Samples

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Free Nibmeister Work Giveaway Winner

Thank you ALL for responding to the giveaway contest. It was fun reading what readers are using and want to use even more.

RANDOM.ORG has spoken and the timing for

Jenny in Austin

Was perfect as you came in as the 26th comment. Congratulations and I’m sure Mark will be performing nib magic on your TWSBI 1.1 Stub if that is what you choose.  I have dispatched an email to the address you registered here on the blog. If you did not receive it send me a note at bob@mypenneedsink.com .

The first winner will have 5 days from the date of the notification email to contact Mark and start the easy process of sending your pen in. If we don’t hear from the first winner in 5 days we’ll go back to Random.org and pick a new winner.

Thank you Mark Bacas @nibgrinder for teaming up with me and thank you all for reading and playing along.

Remember: Write something nice……

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Are you ready for a Nibmeister?

I have done a post like this before and I think this is a topic valuable enough to repeat, especially for pen enthusiasts who are new to the fountain pen sector. The first fountain pen I ever bought was a disaster nib, I could not understand why anyone would want to write with a dull nail that smeared ink and was attached to the end of a major brand name pen that I paid a lot of money for, at least at the time I thought it was a lot of money for a pen. I should have done more research and not shelved it away in shame. I just needed to be introduced to a nibmeister.

A nibmeister is an affectionate term given to some talented individuals in our community that don magnifying optics on their head and work magic with our fountain pen nibs behind a small grinding wheel. Watching them work makes me nervous but I so enjoy the output. There are a variety of pen problems they can help you identify and fix if you tell them what you’re experiencing. Common issues include baby’s bottom, slow starts, skips, scratchy, too wet, too dry, and even repairs from drop damage or other accidents. Most of these nib magicians can also change the shape of the nib into one of the many variations of specialty nibs that make writing more fun and infuse more character in your writing style. Stub, Italic, Architects, these are commonly referred to as grinds as usually they entail grinding away some of the metals from the existing nib.

Granted not all pens need nib work or the services of a nibmeister but unfortunately some fountain pen brands are known for inconsistent nib quality out of the box. It can be a difficult balance for the pen maker. The time and labor required to tune every nib that leaves a manufacturer’s shop floor would raise the cost of the pen to all of us. NOT tuning the nib results in sometimes delivering a less than optimal writing experience that could sour the reputation for a brand in the eyes of the unlucky recipient. Some pen enthusiasts are confident enough to do some nib tuning on their own, I commend them. For others a nibmeister is a great option if you’re really in love with a pen for all the other reasons but it just doesn’t write well.

Mark Bacas is one such talented nibmeister that our community is fortunate to have. I have sent Mark many of my pens that possessed some bad writing characteristics and all of them have come back the first time as almost a completely new pen.

Mark was kind enough to share his story with me and I’m excited to team up with him for a cool giveaway so read on!

Mark has been interested in pens for most of his life and he admits he may be guilty of absconding some fountains pens that his dad brought home when Mark was a young boy. It took a visit to The Great Southeastern Show, that later became The Atlanta Pen Show, where Mark’s eyes were opened up to the world of fountain pens. Mark’s collection grew and like many of us he began having nibs refined and custom ground. A process that fascinated him. An active member of the Southeastern Pen Club Mark and Mike Masuyama became friends and Mike suggested he give the whole nib work thing a try. Mark gives credit and praise to Mike and Jim Rouse, of Franklin-Christoph as his mentors and accomplished nibmeisters that have help many pen enthusiasts over the years.

Around the 2015 Atlanta Pen Show Mark began acquiring tools and building his knowledge to really make a go at nib work. He’s getting busier and busier with work as more people find his talent valuable. A unique bonus that Mark offers with every pen he works on is a
video of him writing with the customer’s pen to give them a sense of how it performs after the nib work. His prices are reasonable and his turnaround time back to me has been less than 3 weeks.

Here’s Mark at the Atlanta pen show working his inky fingers off.

Mark Bacas Hard At Work

Here is his tool of the trade that requires a really steady hand.

Marks Magic Wand

NOW THE GIVEAWAY

Mark has been very gracious to team up with me and offer a free nib tune or grind to one lucky readers. Just leave a comment here with what pen you would like to have tuned and why.

At 8:00 pm est on Tuesday June 27th, 2017 I will use Random.org to draw a winner. The winner will have 5 days to contact Mark and myself to start the process and shipping their pen off to Mark. The only cost for the winner is shipping the pen to Mark. Mark and I will cover the nib work and the return shipping.

Even if you’re not the lucky winner I still encourage you to go to Mark’s website, review his services and have him do some work for you. I’m confident you’ll be delighted.

Thanks Mark for everything you do for our community, for me personally you have truly made my writing and my collection more enjoyable.

Good luck to all and I look forward to reading your plans!

Remember: Write something nice……

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